In the three weeks since NASA announced that it may have found traces of ancient Martian life in a meteorite, prices for these extraterrestrial rocks have soared tenfold. So intense is the demand that they can fetch more by weight than even the finest diamonds.
The French Museum of Natural History in Paris has discovered this is not necessarily good news. Someone has stolen two Martian meteorite fragments and a Moon rock from its display, forcing staff to contact dealers worldwide and warn them about the missing pieces.
The dealers are amazed. "The NASA announcement took people's desire to own a meteorite to new levels," said Ron Farrell, who runs Bethany Sciences, a meteorite dealership in New Haven, Connecticut. "Prices have gone out of sight. We have had offers of $2m for Martian meteorites weighing a few tens of grams. A month ago they would have cost about $150,000."
Prices are increasing almost daily and, says Mr Farrell, could eventually reach eight figures for one rock. He is taking no chances. "All our pieces of Mars rock have been put in a vault."
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